Murphy MC, George H, Naqi M, et al. Musculoskeletal injury epidemiology in law enforcement and firefighter recruits during physical training: a systematic review. 

Tell us more about yourself and the author team

Myles Murphy is a Physiotherapist and Clinical Research Fellow at Edith Cowan University in Perth Western Australia.

Holly-Anne George and Muhammad Naqi are students are Edith Cowan University, completing a Research Cadetship, to become better exposed to research methods.

Patrick Owen is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University in Victoria and an Associate Editor at the BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine.

Paola Chivers is a biostatistician and the Deputy Director of the University of Notre Dame Australia’s Institute for Health Research.

Nicolas Hart is a Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University and Adjunct Research Fellow at Edith Cowan University in Perth Western Australia.


What is the story behind your study?

Law enforcement officers and firefighters are integral to a functioning society. However, due to the intense physical demands in both of these roles, when training within their respective academies, recruits undergo strenuous strength and conditioning protocols. As we know from the military and sporting literature, intense training periods are associated with injuries and injuries to these recruits, particularly injuries that result in them having to withdraw from the academy program, have a substantial financial burden. Therefore, it is in the best interests of government funding bodies to minimise injuries within recruit training programs. However, before an injury prevention program can be implemented, it is vital that the burden of different types and regions of injuries are known to ensure prevention programs are targeted at those injuries with the largest burden.


In your own words, what did you find?

No studies were able to be identified that reported injuries to firefighter recruits during their basic training. Eight studies were identified that reported injuries in law enforcement recruits, including police (n=6), border police (n=1) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (n=1) recruits. Studies reported that up to almost one-quarter of law enforcement recruits were injured during their academy training period with an incidence rate of up to 4.24 new injuries per 1000 recruit training days. Unfortunately, results related to the region of injury were varied and provide little clarity as to what regions of injury are most common in this population.


What was the main challenge you faced in your study?

The biggest challenge within this study was the lack of consistency in what defined an injury between studies, as well as a lack of detailed reporting. These flaws are unlikely the fault of the previous authors and instead one of the challenges associated with reporting injury epidemiology from existing databases that were not designed for purpose.


If there is one take home message from your study, what would that be?

We do not currently know the severity and burden of injury in firefighter or law enforcement recruits. Therefore, trying to design appropriate injury prevention programs is premature.

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